It transpires that David Mundell’s own reelection campaign was a recipient of the dark money donated to the Scottish Conservatives by secret donors. His election victory was bought on the back of donations from unknown sources. It shouldn’t really be a surprise that the Scottish Secretary of State’s reelection campaign in 2017 benefited from mystery funding, since what he does to benefit Scotland is a mystery too. David easily ranks amongst the top 99% of UK politicians. The only reason he doesn’t rant in the bottom 100% is because of the existence of David Davis.
Former Tory MP Peter Duncan, who resigned recently from being a trustee of the Scottish Unionist Association Trust, the shadowy organisation at the heart of the dark money scandal, told the BBC that the £318,876 which the SUAT donated to the Scottish Conservatives was the “historic proceeds of tombolas and raffles throughout the West of Scotland going back 50 years”. That’s possibly the least convincing explanation since the insurance claim of a driver who drove out of their driveway and hit a bus, and said it was the bus driver’s fault because the bus was running five minutes late. And the bus driver wasn’t even Wullie Rennie.
Incidentally, while we’re on the topic of donations. It was recently brought to my attention that there is a British nationalist gammonista on social media who was in full harrumphery mode that indy sites which benefit from crowdfunding have no right to talk about Conservative politicians receiving secret donations from anonymous people. Whataboutery is a side dish usually served with gammon.
There’s a big difference, Bella Caledonia, Wings Over Scotland, Scotland Goes Pop, Common Space, and me, we aren’t making your laws and imposing austerity on you for the financial benefit of the super-rich, and we state in public precisely what people can expect in return for their donations. Making a moral equivalent between the two is like claiming that collecting money from colleagues at work in order to buy present for a workmate who’s just had a baby is exactly the same as someone interested in buying the company having a secret meeting with the manager to offer them a luxury car and a foreign holiday in return for cutting employees’ wages and slashing their holiday entitlement.
We are open and upfront about our fundraising campaigns, the overwhelming majority of which are small donations of a few quid made by ordinary individuals who are far from wealthy. The Tories solicit donations from extremely wealthy individuals and companies in secret. There’s a general rule in thumb in life, you don’t get to be rich by being a generous and giving person, and the very wealthy who donate large sums to the Conservatives behind closed doors aren’t doing so out of some disinterested sense of charitable altruism. In return for their cash they expect the Tories to pass laws which benefit them and their financial interests. That’s precisely what the Tories do.
It was the national poet Rabbie Burns who wrote that we are bought and sold for English gold, in Fluffy’s case, he’s bought and sold for gold given in secret in dark rooms. At least those who sold Scotland out in the early years of the 18th century admitted who they were selling their souls to. Mind you, Fluffy is so lacking in competence that he’s quite possibly sold his soul to satin and we can now look forward to seeing him make some interesting sartorial choices.
Public and political life in the UK is drowning in a dank cesspit. The Tories are funding themselves with secret donations from unknown individuals. They’re buying elections with dark money. Then they use the power that they’ve gained on the back of this dark money in order to pursue an epic act of national destruction that is Brexit and spend all their time and energy fighting with one another while they trash public services and strip workers of protection and deprive the poor and disabled of a decent and dignified standard of living. Meanwhile, as the utter humiliation of Brexit looms and we’re staring catastrophe in the face, the Labour opposition is mired in a destructive fight about anti-semitism. The current UK political scene can be summed up in that Gerry Rafferty song, “Anti-semites to the left of me, racists to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle of spew.”
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the far right is taking the advantage of the opportunity to gain influence. Even worse, they’re being normalised by a BBC which is allowing them airtime. We already have Question Time and the BBC to take a large share of the blame for the high public profile of Nigel Farage, and this week Radio 4’s Today programme broadcast a largely uncritical interview with Raheem Kassam, an acolyte of Steve Bannon and editor of the far right website Breitbart, championing the chummily named “Tommy” who was released this week from jail after serving time for contempt of court. Raheem, by the way, is a man who is on record of saying of Nicola Sturgeon, “Can someone just like … tape Nicola Sturgeon’s mouth shut? And her legs, so she can’t reproduce. Thanks.” The interview was another step along the dangerous road of the normalisation of the extreme right wing.
There are reports that Bannon is now liaising with Conservatives such as Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees Mogg in order to drag the already right wing Conservatives even further to the political extremes. Labour is being castigated and criticised for its anti-semitism, but the anti-muslim prejudice which is rampant in the Conservatives is passing largely unremarked. We’ve seen plenty of these double standards in Scotland, where SNP politicians are hauled over the coals by the media for the slightest infringement, real or imagined, whereas the serial scandal of one Scottish Conservative politician after another being outed as a racist, a sectarian bigot, a misogynist or a homophobe is shrugged off as just one of those things.
Back in 2014, Scotland was assured that it was only because we were a part of the UK that our public life could guarantee the highest democratic standards. Opponents of independence smugly told us that being British meant being immune from extremism and intolerance. Four years later and the far right is being normalised in the British state. Intolerance and hatred is becoming public policy.
There is no evidence that SUAT money is in any way connected to the extreme right, and I am certainly not suggesting that it might be, however in a country where political donations are mired in secrecy, where political parties seek donations in private in return for who knows what influence, the rise of the extreme right and its normalisation by the media is a deeply alarming development. The point is that the way the UK’s political system is currently set up, the far right could buy influence in a British political party, and the public would be none the wiser.
The UK doesn’t offer Scotland protection from extremism, from hatred, from intolerance and racism. It puts us at threat of them. Scotland within the UK is at risk of being bought and sold for far right gold. We need out. We need a written constitution that provides a clear and transparent framework for our politics, and which gives us all a guarantee of our civil and human rights.
This weekend I am speaking at the launch of Greg Moodie’s new book Cool Scots. The book launch will be downstairs in the Yes Bar in Glasgow from 2pm. Entrance is free and everyone is welcome.
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